Two days later, Locke continued as usual to collect fruits and kill salt crabs as food for both of them. Their immediate priority was to restore their strength and recover to their former health.
Most of Locke's injuries were superficial wounds. They may look garish, but most had slowly recovered thanks to impetus. The remaining serious injuries were the two broken ribs in his chest. Fortunately, Locke had experience with many injuries from his years in war. With his bare hands, he managed to line up the broken ribs. It only needed a longer time to recover. Angelina too managed to get up and walk. Unlike Locke who could recover using only food and impetus, Angelina relied on her mental power to recuperate. Under such circumstances where she couldn't get her hands on medicine, she could only meditate slowly. Angelina had already begun meditating since the day before. Nonetheless, it had little to no effect.
"Too bad I didn't take the deepblue potion I brought in the carriage. Otherwise, I could have recovered faster," Angelina grumbled while training. "Even lightblue potion would have been a great help. I should have asked for a few bottles from my instructor before leaving."
Locke was gobsmacked upon hearing it. He really couldn't compare himself with royalty. He hadn't even seen potion vials before and yet, Angelina was talking about drinking it like water.
"What potion is suitable for me?" Locke asked Angelina.
Angelina looked at Locke and thought about it for a while. "As a knight, I wouldn't recommend you drinking single-use stamina potions or anger potions as there are side effects that come along with it. Strengthening potion isn't bad, and willpower-condensation potion is also good for you as a beginner." Angelina listed a few potion types, most of which Locke had no knowledge of.
"What about red sand potion?" He heard about it from Uncle Yoshk. As one of the potions offered within the Falcon corps that could be exchanged with military merit, it was widely popular and suitable for the lower-ranked jarls with few military merits.
"Red sand potion? I've never heard of that, what is it for?" Angelina said. How could there be a type of potion that she had never heard of?
"It is said that after using it, it will increase one's strength and resistance for a short period," Locke answered honestly. Strength and resistance were some of the most important factors in the battlefield. Just a slight edge could be the difference between life or death. It was not difficult to understand why the potion would be the first choice of lower-ranked officers.
"Why does it sound like strengthening potion though?" Angelina said, "But strengthening potion permanently increases body strength and endurance."
Potions which were capable of permanently increasing one's attributes were obviously much more valuable. It was not something he could hope to get his hands on.
"If the two of us manage to get back alive, I will ask my brother to reward you with an abundance of potions. It will be more than enough to advance you to middle-rank Knecht," Angelina said playfully. Locke was still two ranks away from being a middle-rank Knecht. Moreover, he just managed to reach the beginner rank not long ago. It seemed like an unattainable dream and he didn't even dare to imagine it.
Now that they knew that there might be a salt crab which had evolved into a monster around them, they had to leave the shelter sooner or later. Locke had killed off so many crabs from its tribe. The only reason the monster had not shown up yet was because it was in hibernation. The two of them decided to leave this place as soon as their injuries and strength had recovered as they had no idea of knowing when the crab would awaken from the hibernation and look for them. There was always a risk to staying here, and they both couldn't sleep soundly due to it.
On the topic of sleeping, Locke stopped continuing to weave a bigger quilt. Both of them continued to snuggle closely each night. Of course, Locke did not dare to not touch Angelina. Previously, Angelina was unconscious, but now, she was awake and he was all too mindful of her status as a princess. Of course, what happened after they fell asleep was not his responsibility. There were times he woke up in the middle of the night and discovered his hands around Angelina's waist or Angelina hugging his arm.
Angelina once blushed and asked him shyly: "Why don't you weave another quilt?"
"How is there enough time for that? I am busy finding food and recovering from my injuries." -Locke replied while feigning innocence.
Angelina grit her teeth and glowered at Locke but could only reluctantly accept his excuse.
These days, Locke had been busy crafting water containers. Although there was no shortage of water in the woods, he still prepared enough fresh water to carry with him. As for food, he had already collected all salt crabs on the sandy bank of the saltwater lake, a total of 8 crabs. Firstly, he cracked and removed the meat from the shells. Then, he immersed it in the water he obtained from the saltwater lake. He would then dry it under the sun each day. Locke planned to salt them so they would not spoil easily. Locke told Angelina about his plan. However, Angelina who was born with a silver spoon in her mouth had never heard of salted food, let alone tried any. This made her both curious and interested in this strange technique.
While salting crab meat, Locke realised that they have been eating mostly salted crabs in the past few days. The crabs here carried a strong saltiness in their meat which helped to supplement their sodium intake. However, he began to grow worried at the prospect of them finding another source of salt once they finished these crabs after leaving the lake. Without salt, they would not have enough energy. Hence, he decided to fill another container of water from the saltwater lake.
Besides that, the exotic white fruits he had found that strongly resembled grapes contained a high concentration of water, making it inconvenient to carry around. He dried them out too. Once the water in the fruits were evaporated, only a thin piece was left. The fruit was just as tasteless dried as it was fresh. Nonetheless, it was still convenient to carry a lot of them around.
Locke's ragged outerwear had been repurposed by him into a makeshift bag in which he stored their food and drink. This bag might be their only hope to get out of the Bering Mountains alive. After losing his outerwear, Locke was only left with a vest and top. Consequently, he felt like freezing to death every morning. Fortunately, there was Angelina there to warm him.
Although Angelina's clothes were torn, it was still enough to shield her from the cold. Though Locke's physique was much stronger than Angelina, even he shivered from the chilly weather. Even with her clothes, Angelina often woke up in the middle of night from the cold.
Winter was unavoidable and would come in half a month. The change in temperature between day and night was huge, and even the bonfire built by Locke would go out by midnight. Regardless of his best efforts, he couldn't reignite the bonfire in the cold weather. The army would wrap a layer of linen around the torch and keep it lit with grease. However, even if he could get cloth to soak grease up, he couldn't find any grease. Aside from the salt crabs and the wolf from before, the only living animals from which he could get fats that he could spot were birds flying in the sky.
In these few days, Angelina had learned a lot from Locke. At least, she could sew her own torn clothes up now. Even a princess like her managed to learn some sewing. Surely, she had matured much from this ordeal.
This evening, Locke came back from the jungle again with an armful of white fruits. Angelina stepped forward to greet Locke. To be honest, every time Locke left the cave, Angelina's heart would be filled with anxiety. She was constantly worried that he would run into an accident outside. Being alone in the cave by the lake was the only thing Angelina could do. Fortunately, she could still pass the time by meditation, otherwise she might've gone insane from boredom and anxiety.
The happiest time of Angelina's day was the moment when Locke returned. Finally, there would be someone who could converse and spend time with her. Although practicing magic was a lonely activity, it was not carried out in isolation. Casters were humans too and required normal interaction with others.
Among the many foods Locke brought back was an exotic thumb-sized fruit.
"I finally managed to find a new type of fruit after looking for so long. Can you examine if it is edible?" Locke asked Angelina. Their relationship now was not one of a commoner and a princess, nor a superior and a subordinate; they were merely two unfortunate souls relying on each other. They began to drop the pretense and titles, even making jokes occasionally.
Angelina tucked her hair behind her ears and took the fruits to inspect them. These days, Locke brought back many fruits, but most of it was either inedible or toxic. Only the white fruits Locke found in the beginning had been safe to eat.
Angelina frowned and observed it for a long time before saying hesitantly, "This looks like a spellcasting ingredient.
"Spellcasting ingredient?" Locke was interested in this new term.
"Yes, casters occasionally require some catalysts to cast spells quickly," Angelina explained.
"Can these things help you cast spells?" Locke looked at Angelina excitedly. He learned from these few days that Angelina could use three spells well and even enjoyed a Cleanse cast on him. Spells are indeed magical, he thought.
"This is a firecloud fruit imbued with some fire essence, which can boost a caster's fire-attribute magic. But I can't use them yet." Angelina blushed. She was only a beginner-rank Lehrling and mastering three spells was considered good enough. Although Illuminate used some fire essence, it did not need any spellcasting materials.
"Then it should be really precious, right?" Locke changed his focus. His main interests now lay in items that he could use to increase his strength and money.
"Yes." Angelina nodded. When it came to spellcasting materials, none of it was cheap.
"We hit the jackpot!" Locke murmured. He found the fruit in abundance covering a whole area in the woods. If he managed to pick all of them...
"There are usually magical creatures inhibiting near these types of magical plants, did you see any?" Angelina asked, puzzled. Although firecloud fruit wasn't high grade, it was nevertheless a magical fruit. Many first and earth-attribute monsters loved to eat it.
'Uh, I didn't see any. Could it be that they are hibernating too?" Locke guessed.
"That's possible. Fire and earth monsters don't enjoy winter and would usually choose to hibernate. Also, fortunately the location here is near to Morphey Forest, so it has a high mana density. That's why these fruits can grow in the winter. These usually mature in the summer."
"Seems like luck was really on our side. To think that the two monsters we could have bumped into were in hibernation." Locke scratched his head.
"Yes." Angelina smiled at Locke.
"Can we eat this?" Locke stared at the fruit and asked.
"Eat?" Angelina said, stunned. "Maybe?" She was skeptical.